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June 30, 2005

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I think of the postscript as honest in a way. There are some ideas that genuinely occur to you as afterthoughts, beyond mere timing, a distinction which may be clearer in the digital era. That is, the handwritten postscript may just reflect the timing of a thought occurring after a signature. But in the digital era what it may reflect is an honesty about the fact of editing--specifically, about having finished a draft, and reading it over, and deciding something was missing. At least, that's what occurs to me with the post/comment point. You publish the post, read it over, and then points x & y occur to you, which you might add more honestly in a comment. It captures the quality of reflection?

Yes, but I meant not publishing the post and then, instead of editing it, adding comments, but rather composing the post (mentally if not on a keyboard) and deciding that having part of it be a comment would be rhetorically more effective than having that part be on the main post, or in a "more inside" (which is itself rhetorically different ... Languagehat frequently has just one- or two-sentence more insides, often on posts where he's pointing something out he found elsewhere and quoting a lot; inside will be a brief commentary or related quotation from elsewhere).

I wasn't really thinking about honesty, drafting and editing issues (though I think that's a good point; the PS allows you to preserve what came originally while still making your meaning clear—I'm now not sure that this is what you mean but if not I do think I understand what you mean). In fact the paradigm postscript that I had in mind is one in which it's purely rhetorical. That is, I wouldn't be tempted to use a PS to write out anything very lengthy, or very explanatory of what had come in the body of the email; I'd put that into the body itself. I would be more inclined to use one if I were writing on matter $X, and also had to inform the recipient of something else entirely—something that could just as well be introduced with "incidentally" or "by the way". Something that has the character of an afterthought, or that I want to seem afterthoughtly, even if I knew it all along.

I would just leave out the .sig for that message. It's not like people read email .sigs anyway.

The PS is a bit of an affectation and including one in email, or in a document composed in a word processor, may lead to the conclusion that one is a fop and a dandy, not that there is anything wrong with that.

I once got a form letter that said that the people I had written to were too busy to respond personally, and then there was a short personal note written in the margin, something which I was actually fairly psyched about. The P.S. lives!

I am not a fop or a dandy!

Yes, I see. It's funny that the same device can be affected or in some way authentic, depending on how you look at it. It can be an acknowledgment of a break of some kind, a lack of flow, or too self-consciously acknowledging this. Is it that the more effective it is as a rhetorical device--the more it is a "by the way" rather than an attempt to preserve the first draft--the more affected it is?

(I think the reason the first draft element occurred to me because I was thinking of a friend who is a film editor who talks about the essential nature of the first viewing of a rough cut, for all subsequent editing. You have to keep in mind your first reaction, or you lose a sense of how it will look to someone else.)

By the way, Ben, "Wite-Out" is the brand name, so "white out" just might be the generic name.

I have learned something new, today.

And yet you love Tristram Shandy.

You are an odd one.

Well, you know, Tristram Shandy is hilarious.

Yes. Because it consciously and deliberately plays with formal devices and self-awareness.

Ok, three things.

1. Actually, two things.
A) I'm reminded of a (short (but they were all short, they were supposed to be), not that good (though it got an A) essay I wrote, about a funerary lekythos. I employed a word which now I can't remember [but see below for an informative update!]. This is where I went in and added that bit about disorganization at the top, btw (qualitatively different from "by the way"? I think so). Of course I could, this all being typed into a text field, move what has basically become the main part of this post out of a multiply-nested parenthetical, but instead I'll just draw further attention to the fact that I haven't.), why not employ it?

Where's the opening parenthesis for the parenthetical phrase ending in "the fact that I haven't" and where's the sentence whose end is "why not emplot it?".

B) I hated that Bishop poem so much I almost dropped out of high school.

A: Way up at "perhaps".

Because it consciously and deliberately plays with formal devices and self-awareness.

That isn't why it's funny.

I can write a less flippant/dismissive response, if you like.

bw -- this post was a lot of fun.

Ah, there it is.

You know, Ben, parentheses are even more special when you use them in moderation.

I'm trying to demean them.

I'm only saying this because I care. I think you have a parentheses problem.

In novels from the epistolary ages, people comment that the real message of a letter is always in the postscript; especially requests for favors, or postscripts in letters from women. And yet, we are also told that people wrote their letters out in a clear hand to send, partly for aesthetics and partly so they would have a record of what their correspondents were responding to. Why did they not interpolate the postscript?

I think the postscript was already a rhetorical strategy, something like a claim to deniability. Oh never mind; that didn't matter; I wouldn't want to bother you.

friend has given the link has not regretted that has come

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